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Am I A Copy Cat?

I'm going to take a moment to talk about copying. Copying happens all the time because ideas flow pretty freely on social media. So what is the difference between copying, being inspired by, and just having similar designs?

Earlier this year I incorporated punch needle into my embroidery practice and then expanded my fiber arts studio to include punch needle pillows. I draw inspiration from plants, nature, and landscapes. Much of my work takes a whimsical or abstract approach to these themes. My pillows expanded on the abstract landscape punch needle designs I was creating for my embroidery collection. All of which I thought were super unique and original.

A couple months after sharing my work on Instagram, another punch needle artist commented on my work and told me that I was copying their and they knew it because we lived in the same area (Seattle.) When I read this comment, I was taken aback! I had no idea who this artist was or why they were accusing me of copy their work. All of my designs are original.

After explaining that I wasn’t familiar with their work, and that all my designs are my own, I took a look at their Instagram. And yes, we had a similar design. While we both used wavy texture to create an abstract landscape circular punch needle pillow design, we both arrived at this idea from very different parallel approaches, on our own.

So how did this happen? Was I copying them? Were they copying me?

Neither of us copied each other. The creative world is a small place. We’d all like to think that our designs are entirely unique, but chances are someone has done something similar and it’s not as unique as you think it is. Similarity and crossover are bound to happen. There are tons of artists working in the embroidery and punch needle fields and themes like floral, animals, cacti, and nature are rampant. Are they all somewhat similar? Yes.

So how do you know if something is a copy, was inspired by, or is just similar?

To me, copying is a blatant use or recreation of someone else’s design and calling it your own. This could be the whole design or a portion of some else’s design. It is never okay to copy, so just don’t do it.

Inspired by, means someone saw your work and created something similar or they used an element of your design in their own unique way. While some people use the term “inspired by” to copy another’s work, that isn’t what inspired by means. To me, "inspired by" means their work spurred new thought and was the starting point for something new.

So where does similarity fit in? Similarity is bound to happen in the artistic world. As an artist, I draw inspiration from what’s around me, and I know other artists do so as well. We’re bound to use similar themes to come up with our own unique designs. This interpretation may lead us on very similar paths without even knowing it.

As an artists I know that all my work is true to myself and that my designs are original. I also know that my designs are probably not completely unique and other artists are using the same themes to create similar pieces. Unless someone is blatantly copying my work and calling it their own, I'm going to guess we're just on the same inspiration path and try not to be too hard on them or myself for using the same ideas, themes, and mediums.

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